Senators broker own special deals, Associated Press,
Here’s a look at concessions lawmakers and interest groups won in the latest version of the Senate’s health care overhaul bill, approved 60-40 in a procedural vote Monday and headed to a second vote this morning:
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who provided the critical 60th vote that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needed, received numerous benefits for Nebraska, along with tighter curbs on abortion. Among the Nebraska-specific provisions:
•The federal government will pick up the full cost of a proposed expansion of Medicaid, at an estimated cost of $100 million over 10 years.
•Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will be exempted from an annual fee on insurers; the exemption could also apply to non-profit insurers in other states, possibly including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
•Supplemental “Medigap” policies such as those sold by Mutual of Omaha are exempted from the annual fee on insurers, something that would help other companies selling such policies.
•A physician-owned hospital being built in Bellevue, Neb., could get referrals from doctors who own it, avoiding a new ban in the Senate bill that will apply to hospitals built in the future. Without mentioning Nebraska or other states by name, the Senate bill pushes back some legal deadlines by several months, in effect making a few hospitals near completion eligible to continue receiving referrals from the doctors who own them.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee and a key architect of the legislation, put in a provision to help the 2,900 residents of Libby, Mont., many of whom have asbestos-related illnesses from a now-defunct mineral mine. Under Baucus’ provision, which never mentions Libby by name, sickened residents could sign up for Medicare benefits.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee and facing a difficult re-election next year, added an item making $100 million available for construction of a hospital at a public university. The measure leaves it up to the Health and Human Services Department to decide where to spend the money. Dodd says more than a dozen sites could be eligible, but he hopes the University of Connecticut will be the beneficiary.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., negotiated $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits for his state over 10 years.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a key moderate, withheld her support until she was able to procure Medicaid help from the federal government worth at least $100 million in 2011.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., held out on backing the bill until Reid, D-Nev., agreed to a $10 billion increase in support for community health centers.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., pushed a provision he said will let about 800,000 Florida seniors enrolled in private Medicare Advantage plans keep their extra benefits. It also helps seniors in a handful of other states. Elsewhere, Medicare Advantage patients risk losing benefits because the private plans are a major target of planned cuts to Medicare.